Saturday, January 16, 2016

Protections finalized for threatened northern long-eared bats

In an effort to conserve the northern long-eared bat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a final rule that uses flexibilities under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to tailor protections to areas affected by white-nose syndrome during the bat’s most sensitive life stages. The rule is designed to protect the bat while minimizing regulatory requirements for landowners, land managers, government agencies and others within the species’ range.

“The overwhelming threat to the northern long-eared bat is white-nose syndrome,” said Service Director Dan Ashe in a statement. “Until there is a solution to the white-nose syndrome crisis, the outlook for this bat will not improve. This rule tailors regulatory protections in a way that makes sense and focuses protections where they will make a difference for the bat.”

The Service listed the northern long-eared bat as threatened under the ESA in April 2015 and established an interim 4(d) rule following drastic population declines caused by white-nose syndrome in the eastern and midwestern United States. 

The final 4(d) rule for the northern long-eared bat removes prohibitions that would otherwise be in place on “incidental take” of the bat in areas of the country not affected by white-nose syndrome (seemap). Incidental take includes harm, harassment or mortality that occurs incidental to an otherwise lawful activity, such as clearing trees for a construction project.

Under the final rule, intentionally harming, harassing or killing the northern long-eared bat is prohibited throughout the species’ range, except for removal of northern long-eared bats from human structures, and when necessary to protect human health and safety.

The final rule appears in the Federal Register and takes effect on Feb. 16, 2016.

For more information on the special rule for the northern long-eared bat, go to http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/mammals/nleb/index.html.

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